The Groove Seeker: Argotec’s Wherewithal

On a weekly basis, The Groove Seeker goes in search of killer grooves across rock, funk, hip hop, soul, electronic music, jazz, fusion, and more.

Argotec: WherewithalArgotec: Wherewithal (5/8/2010)

Argotec: “What You Now Know”

[audio:|titles=Argotec: “What You Now Know”]

Argotec, the New York-based duo of Alex Argot and Defpotec (Richard Courage), shows an impressive array of influences with its self-released debut record, Wherewithal, cementing elements of drum-and-bass, glitch, electronic, and rock into the realm of hip hop.  The partnership — Argot supplying rhymes and Defpotec handling production — has created a distinct and developed sound, channeling old-school Aesop Rock verses in a cut-and-paste Flying Lotus aesthetic with dash of screamo vocals.  With smart lyrics that demand listeners to think critically about social consciousness, Wherewithal aims to broaden audiences’ horizon both musically and mentally.

Although the music is a collision of live guitars and bass, high-pitched synthesizers, stuttering glitches, electronic humming, and those occasional scream hooks, Argotec finds a tight niche within the expanding possibilities of technology and the hip-hop aesthetic.  To fans of glitch, there are no surprises here.  But to the untrained ear, there may be a lot of strange moments throughout the album: out-of-nowhere vocal placements, analog distortions never heard before, and all kinds of clicks in out-of-time spots.

Drawing inspiration from bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and genres like jazz and turntablism, Defpotec riddles the album with a certain disruptive character.  But Argotec’s artistic goal is disrupting the common order: questioning authority, rebelling against the status quo, and provoking a revolutionary attitude towards change.  Though discordant at times, Wherewithal is still extremely listenable.

“Seed Reacher” begins with a sample from the film adaption of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, as the antagonist O’Brien tells protagonist Winston Smith, “If you want a vision of the future…imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”  Musically, the song is exactly this – a relentless stretch of drum-and-bass and chaotic hardware noise, arranged in a package that leaves listeners no space to rest the auditory senses.  But lyrically, it’s an aggressive outcry to this so-called vision of the future as Argot rhymes:

“CEOs of AIG are covered up by TARP and taken away by DARPA’s ‘Big Dog’ via the NAFTA super highway / subtle steps to singularity / while the MTA proposes Doomsday / The MLB’s on HGH / the NSA can hear what you say / Project Blue Beam will be seen”

Along the lines of Saul Williams, Argot’s inspiration is of a socially conscious spoken-word poet.  Angry at times but always collected, Argot lifts the music into a separate light.  He places words and rhymes between the crevices of the beat in a disciplined display of breath control – and usually, the result is an instant head-bobber.

Argotec’s intellectual and socially engaging component sets it apart from many of its contemporaries.  In many ways, the duo is obsessed with the current state of things, and as both artists are technologically and politically driven, the album is a labor of what they admire and despise.  Add the ultramodern production that finds refuge in the disparate, and Wherewithal turns into a public-service announcement for the underground.

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